Thursday, 4 July 2013

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, July 2013)

TCHAIKOVSKY 18 Piano Pieces Op.72
Naxos 8.572225 / ****1/2

Piotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) wrote a large volume of piano music, mostly miniatures aimed at the domestic market of amateur pianists. His final set of 18 pieces Op.72 was completed just six months before his untimely death from suspected suicide. These are mature works, kaleidoscopic in character and mood and by no means easy to play. It takes a virtuoso to convincingly pull off the Scherzo-Fantaisie, which has a fairy-lightness and mercurial grace of his great ballets. Reserves of energy are needed for the Polacca De Concert, in the virtuosic manner of Chopin’s virtuosic polonaises. 

This is bread and butter for the young Russian Konstantin Shamray, 1st prizewinner of the 2008 Sydney International Piano Competition, who possesses the Slavic temperament, pathos and bravura for these exquisite numbers. For the arch-lyricism in Meditation, intimately communing voices of Dialogue, scintillating music box effects of Echo-Rustique, and emotional depth of Chant-Elegiaque, he delivers with much immediacy and aplomb. The celebrated Deutsche Grammophon recording by Mikhail Pletnev has a formidable rival in this excellent budget-priced release from Naxos

Vasari Singers / Jeremy Backhouse
Naxos 8.573049 / *****

Afraid of modern music? Fear not, as this is more proof that composers today are turning their backs on atonalism to embrace tonality at its most glorious and sophisticated. The rich polyphony of the Renaissance serves as the common point of departure for this anthology of requiems and memorials sung a cappella.

The Bermuda-born Gabriel Jackson (born 1962) uses both Roman Catholic Latin liturgy and modern texts for his Requiem (1908) to sensuous and beautiful effect. For him, the Requiem celebrates life and rejects the fear of death and judgement. There is no Dies Irae (Day of Wrath), instead he draws upon Kevin Gilbert (Australian aboriginal), Ujimasa (Japan), Tagore and Walt Whitman as his inspirations for his 36-minute masterpiece in seven movements that sounds like the perfect evocation of eternal rest.

Jackson’s shorter In All His Works (2009) and I Am The Voice Of The Wind (2010) were also commissioned in memory of loved ones lost. On the same lines, John Tavener’s Song Of Athene (1993), already fairly well-known, and Francis Pott’s When David Heard (2008) registers the grief of life suddenly cut short. The cry of “Absalom, my son” in the latter cuts poignantly and deeply in the consciousness. Bob Chilcott’s Rosa Mystica sets Oscar Wilde’s Requiescat to the familiar strains of Pachelbel’s Canon. The excellent Vasari Singers are vividly recorded, breathing joyous vitality to every word sung.    

1 comment:

Ingeborg said...

This is fantastic!